Expert: Not Designating Iran’s IRGC for Terrorism ‘Would Hold American Policy Hostage’

Patrick Goodenough | April 6, 2017 | 4:10am EDT
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IRGC troops during a visit by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Shiraz in 2009. (Photo: Supreme Leader’s website)

( – Designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for terrorism would not violate the nuclear deal, and the U.S. should make clear that if the deal falls apart as a result, Iran will be to blame both for walking away and for sponsoring terror in the first place, U.S. lawmakers were told Wednesday.

Testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) executive director Mark Dubowitz, an Iran expert, said the IRGC could be designated under executive order 13224, a post-9/11 tool designed to disrupt funding to terrorists.

“Congress should reject the argument that this designation will provoke the IRGC to threaten or commit violence,” he said. “To do so would hold American policy hostage.”

The Trump administration has been mulling calls by lawmakers and others for the IRGC to be designated a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) under U.S. law.

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which advocates for U.S. engagement with Tehran, is a vocal opponent of the move, arguing that it will jeopardize the nuclear deal and put American lives at risk in Iraq by “turn[ing] the current de-facto cooperation into outright conflict with Iranian forces and proxies in Iran.”

In his written testimony, Dubowitz disputed that designation for terrorism would violate the nuclear agreement, “despite protests by Iran to the contrary.”

“Washington should proactively explain that if the nuclear deal falls apart as a result of this designation, the blame falls squarely on Iran both for its decision to walk away from the agreement and for its terrorism support in the first place,” he said.

Designation under EO13224 could be an alternative to FTO designation.

Dubowitz recalled that President Bush used EO13224 in 2007 to designate the IRGC’s Qods Force for providing support to Hezbollah, the Taliban and three Palestinian terror groups.

But that did not go far enough, he argued, since the Qods Force is an integral part of the IRGC, with personnel routinely rotating between the two, and because the Qods Force “plays only a small role in the IRGC’s vast business ventures, which it uses to fund its terrorist activities.”

Dubowitz noted that legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate late last month – the bipartisan Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act – does mandate sanctions against the IRGC in its entirety under EO13224.

The IRGC, which has a long history of terrorism including directing deadly attacks targeting the U.S. in Lebanon in the early 1980s and in Saudi Arabia in 1996, is deeply enmeshed in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad regime.

Dubowitz said that since the conclusion on an interim nuclear deal with Iran in 2013 and the subsequent comprehensive agreement, there has been an “enormous increase” in Iran-related terror attacks, particularly in Syria.

“Iran has perpetrated and supported these attacks by the IRGC, Hezbollah and Iranian-backed [Shi’ite] militias,” he said. “This is part of the reason why the State Department calls Iran the leading state-sponsor of terrorism.”

NIAC also opposes designation of the IRGC under EO13224, asserting in an article last month that doing to “would invite the same problems associated with designating the IRGC an FTO – such as endangering U.S. forces in Iraq and undermining the nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers – and would have little effect on the IRGC’s operations.”

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